3 Survival Skills Learned From NASA
Recently I finished the book “The Martian” by Andy Weir. In it, a man named Mark Watney is stranded on Mars after his fellow crew mates escape a disastrous storm in which they believe him to be dead. I don’t want to ruin the story for you, but that’s the basic idea. The rest of the book (and soon to be movie) takes you through his experiences surviving on the red planet.
While the writing is amazing and the characters are solid, the thing that really got me about this story is the innate want to survive that’s inside every human. With no hope of rescue Watney took it upon himself to survive for as long as possible just for the sake of survival and the hope that he get rescued someday.
Taking a step back, NASA as a whole is all about this idea. Ever since Apollo 13, NASA has come up with some pretty amazing ways to keep astronauts alive and safe. From standardization to intense training, if it’s good enough to keep someone on Mars alive, it’s probably good enough for us.
1. Always have at least one backup
As you probably would imagine sending things into space is pretty expensive. Because of this, space is always at a premium. Even with this in mind, every system NASA uses and every tool they employ have at least 2 backups in one form or another.
NASA knows that when it rains it pours, so they back every system up a few times just in case. By having double or triple redundancy astronauts can rest assured that nearly any failure can be righted by the next backup in line. Use this same idea when prepping and keep backups of your most important items and plans. Don’t worry about making each redundancy the same quality, as a bike can be a redundancy for a car, and a good pair of walking shoes can replace a bike.
2. Standardize Everything
When the oxygen tank ruptured on Apollo 13 the crew was forced into the lander for the remainder of their trip. This was fine, but the lander was only meant for two astronauts, not the three that were occupying it. This meant that the canisters that absorbed CO2 out of the air needed changed more than they were planned for, both for the longer time spent in the lander and the additional person.
So what’s the big deal, just grab the CO2 scrubbers from the main ship and bring them over, right? Sadly nobody imagined the need to live in the lander module for an extended period of time, and as such the scrubbing canisters for one side were square, and for the other they were round. This simple oversight nearly cost three astronauts their lives.
While this problem was solved with the help of the geniuses at NASA’s JPL and some duct tape, we can learn from it and not repeat this mistake. Plan ahead and make everything you can interchangeable as much as possible. Try to use the same common ammunition across multiple guns, use the same fuel across all your means of transportation, and keep anything else that can be the same as such.
3. Training & Experience Matter
Most of becoming an astronaut is being able to handle the training. Beyond this, knowing your skills forwards and backwards is pretty important, too. It takes up to two years of intensive training to become an astronaut, making it one of the most training-intensive jobs around. Remember, this is after you get an advanced degree, too.
Sure, training is important, but so is experience. Learning and practicing the skills you need to be an astronaut are just as important, possibly more. Real-world experience with flying, handling g-forces, and dealing with emergencies all make a good astronaut.
This applies to prepping and overall survival, too. If you truly want to survive, you should train as much as you can in the areas you feel are most important as well as practice what you learn to get real-world experience. Don’t just buy “stuff” and expect to be a master at survival. Go take canning courses at your community college, go camping with the bare necessities, and take a professional class on firearms safety and shooting.
If becoming an astronaut or working for NASA was easy, everyone would do it. NASA and space travel as a whole require dedication, skill, and a want to be great. Apply these tenants to survival and prepping and you’ll be the best you can be.
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